James Pawlish talks to Lisbon artist Pedro Matos about his influences, street art, and first solo show in San Francisco entitled, “Ephemera”
JP: Tell me about Pedro Matos as a person and how your personal life, upbringing, and experiences have influenced your art?
PM: I was born in Santarém, Portugal in 1989 and moved to Lisbon one year later. I have lived here ever since. When I was a kid (10 or 11) I got into a lot of “underground” cultures like skateboarding, graffiti, hip hop, punk, etc. Everything was very connected and things were hard to find and learn about, it made everything so special and precious. I started painting when I was about sixteen and I also had the chance to travel a lot more than most people I know. I don’t know in what way it influenced my work, as I have never lived as someone else…it’s hard to recognize what was influential or not, but definitely skateboarding and graffiti were two of the most important ones.
You mentioned you started painting at sixteen. Who were some of your earliest influences? Is there any one artist that sticks out as having really inspired you?
A lot of artists were great inspirations when I started, you keep discovering new artists and making new connections and it’s super exciting. Some of the ones that I was stoked about since day one and still inspire me today would be, Anthony Lister, Conor Harrington, Barry Mcgee, Shawn Barber, Kaws, etc..and of course, the old masters like Rembrandt, Velazquez, Caravaggio, & Vermeer.
I read in an interview you started out with no formal training. However, you later went on to pursue your BFA only to drop out after three years. With that being said, what are your thoughts about your time in art school?
Waste of time and money.
So now that your settled back into your studio, how does it feel having just had your first solo show in San Francisco?
It feels amazing. I am so happy to be showing here. I’ve been following the SF art scene for years and a lot of my favorite artists have shown on these same walls. Everyone at White Walls/Shooting Gallery (and the SF art community in general) are amazing people and I am having the time of my life.
While you were in the city, were you able to draw some inspiration from its rich cultural history and many interesting inhabitants?
Oh man…the Tenderloin….
Your work has a post-graffiti sense of beauty found in decaying and abandoned places. What first attracted you to this recurring visual theme?
I used to do charcoal on paper paste-ups on unoccupied buildings; I didn’t see many of them in SF. But in Lisbon, the city centre has a lot of them. Just Imagine if you had a lot of empty buildings in Union Square and Downtown SF. It doesn’t make sense! Anyway, as I was doing those, I found a beauty in the decaying look of the buildings, and people tagging over them, pasting event posters, ripping them off, the paper aging, etc. Not only did I find it aesthetically beautiful, but I also thought it went very very well with the kind of subject matter and problematics I am questioning in my work. It’s a lot about subjectivity and ephemerality.
Can you describe a little bit about your creative process?
I like to work in a series of several paintings so I can move from one to another while things dry or I am stuck in something that’s not working. I never do studies or previous drawings and I usually start with a background that’s kinda like what an old wall would look like with the decaying look and fading tags. I start adding layers on top of each other with the different things I am using. (Patterns, portraits, words, etc). Once all that is dry there are a few glazings I do to have this “aged look”.
Are the people in your paintings people you’ve actually encountered in life or do you use photos and other materials as reference?
I’ve seen many pieces of yours with the now famous Jean-Micheal Basquiat (SAMO) crown painted on them. Do you have a special connection to Basquiat as an artist?
I am a big fan of Basquiat indeed. I read his crowns were a symbol of respect and admiration for other figures he refers in his work, so these can be the same referring to him and the people I paint in my work. But it was very spontaneous the first time I did it, and only a few days later I realized I had done a “basquiat crown”. Then I did a whole series of portraits of homeless people with the crowns above their heads. I don’t do that as much anymore though. It made sense in that specific body of work.
I know you’ve done some graffiti work on the streets in the past, do you have any plans on making a return?
Yes, there are plans of things I want to do in the street, I am just waiting for the opportunities to be able to perform them. I haven’t been doing the kind of charcoal paste ups I used to, that doesn’t make sense for me anymore.
What are your thoughts about street art and its continuing acceptance by the “high brow” art community?
I think that’s something very delicate and subjective. Any counter-culture that ends up being accepted by the mainstream (or the high brow art world) loses some of it’s initial magic. A lot of people start to get involved with it for the wrong reasons and somehow it loses it’s appeal. On the other hand, the kind of acceptance and money that came to “street art” allows for a lot of new things and big projects; murals, museum shows, etc Plus, it gives artists the opportunity to show their work.
What are some upcoming projects you have planned?
I’m Moving to a new country and starting to work on my next solo show. I am also releasing a new print in the next few weeks.
What’s one word that describes Pedro Matos?
Pedro’s show “Ephemera” can be seen at Shooting Gallery September 3rd – 24th 2011
From The Citrus Report
Posted By The Citrus Report